Nashville, Tenn. – Patrick Miller had a career-high 28 points and the Tennessee State men’s basketball team hung on to defeat Eastern Illinois, 67-59, in the squad’s first Ohio Valley Conference game of the season.
Miller made his first four shots of the game and finished a perfect 11-of-11 from the charity stripe.
Kellen Thornton and Jordan Cyphers also finished in double-figures for Tennessee State (7-7, 1-0 OVC) with 16 and 14 points, respectively. Cyphers, Miller and Thornton combined for 80 percent of TSU’s 40 shots.
Thornton also had a game-high 10 rebounds for his third double-double of the season.
EIU won the opening tip, but TSU started the game on a 6-0 run that was sparked by a pair of buckets from Thornton. The Panthers answered with a three, but Cyphers returned the favor at the 17:53 mark to put the Tigers up, 9-3.
Cyphers hit another jumper from downtown with under eight minutes to go in the half and then canned his third of the game on TSU’s following possession. The offensive flurry put the Tigers in the lead, 24-10, and forced Eastern Illinois (3-11, 0-1 OVC) to use its first timeout of the half.
Cyphers went into the locker room with a half-high 11 points on 3-of-7 shooting. All of his attempts were from beyond the arc.
TSU maintained its double-digit lead for the remainder of the period and went into halftime sporting a 32-19 lead. Eastern Illinois’ 19 first half points were the least by any Tennessee State opponent this season.
The Tigers shot 52.4 percent during the opening stanza, but it was TSU’s defense that allowed the home team to take such a large lead. Big Blue only allowed EIU to shoot 26.1 percent in half one and the Panthers only pulled down one offensive board.
TSU picked up where it left off after halftime and a coast-to-coast layup by M.J. Rhett with 16:30 left in the game gave his squad a 19-point lead- its biggest of the contest.
However for the next eight minutes, the Panthers mounted a comeback that included a 6-0 run to put EIU within 10. Miller finally stopped the bleeding with a jumper, making the score 49-37.
Later, a three pointer by EIU’s Taylor Jones trimmed the Tiger lead to six with fewer than four minutes remaining in the game.
Cyphers finally put the nail in the coffin with his only three of the second half at the 2:23 mark, making the score 59-49. EIU tried to claw back into the game, and even got within four, but TSU hung on for a 67-59 win.
TSU was outscored 35-40 during the second half, but Miller’s 20 points in period two allowed the Tigers to move to .500.
TSU will next travel to Tennessee Tech on Jan. 3 for the team’s second conference game of the season. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Note: Robert Covington missed his second consecutive game with an injury to his right knee. The diagnosis is officially a tear to his meniscus, which will cause him to miss 4-6 weeks. The last time that Covington did not start consecutive games was Nov. 30, 2009.